To the sound of Orpheus's lyre they smote with oars the rushing sea water, and the surge broke over the oar blades. The sails were let out and the breeze came into them, piping shrilly, and the fishes came darting through the green sea, great and small, and followed them, gamboling along the watery paths.
But here’s an entire dimension missing in David Foster Wallace’s “Big Red Son”, his journalistic foray into the AVN awards, and the first entry in his Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. I call attention to its absence in order to throw the purview of his writing into high relief, and consider how it is that he summons such force in this piece. For the essay runs precisely on what it omits. Much more so than its high virtuosity and clammy voyeurism, mooks and all, it is the post-moralistic tone that provides the power.
Now Wallace actually does mention that the purveyors of these goods have herpes basically without exception. Hence the thought experiment above. And that the industry is twice the size of Hollywood, with a lobby all its own - and this in 1998! But these are brief asides in the narrative flow of near-bionics and awkward fascination.
His silence on these matters insists - aggressively - that the post-moral view is the new norm. Once the domain of moral hunchbacks, these human commodities have emerged from the twilight of past taboo, and we behold the spectacle in all its surreality. They take their place, publicly and matter-of-factly, in the artificial light of a major convention center where so many gadgetfests are held. With three clicks, even in those days, we knew them and their deeds.
Look beyond the spinning wheel and see the sparks shoot forth! Where did the moral outrage of yesteryear go, the invocations of “filth” and “perversion”? To the grave, with those gone generations? Did we ever have a debate? Was it another case of “they have the guns but we have the numbers”? Wasn’t there a time when feminists, too, decried such objectification? Has moralism been exposed as another face of jingoism? Or is this post-hoc justification for what we naturally slipped into somewhere in youth? Do we fear a charge of hypocrisy more than having our weakness exploited? What of human trafficking and work conditions? Is the body so alienable?
And by the way: what exactly does it look like when a member of said lobby approaches the senator of, say, California?